02/27/2013 7:32 PM ET
Angels keeping options open at closer
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn't picking any favorites for the closer's role, which will be wide open now that Ryan Madson is all but guaranteed to start the season on the disabled list.
With Madson, still throwing off flat ground, unavailable for at least the first couple of weeks, the Angels will be left with Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs, Kevin Jepsen and Sean Burnett at the back end of the bullpen. Frieri would seem to be the logical choice for the ninth, at least initially, after posting a 2.32 ERA and going 23-for-26 in save chances with the Angels last season.
But Scioscia will leave it wide open for now.
"We'll see where we are at the end of Spring Training," the Angels' skipper said. "If Madson isn't quite ready, you have Frieri, who stepped in there, that is a candidate. But do we have to declare that right now?"
Jepsen has always had what people like to call "closer's stuff," with an average fastball velocity of 96.4 mph in 2012, and posted a 1.67 ERA after coming back up in July last year. Downs has a career 2.08 ERA in 164 1/3 innings in save situations. And Burnett, who posted a 2.76 ERA and 1.23 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) the last three years with the Nats, is "an important wild card" because he "can pitch anywhere from the sixth to ninth inning," Scioscia said.
"I think we have some depth in the back end of our 'pen," he added. "We'll see where it evolves, but we're very comfortable with the arms we have down there and the fact that they're going to do a better job of holding leads."
Cowart finding groove hitting left-handed
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Third-base prospect Kaleb Cowart had one major point of emphasis this spring -- continuing to find consistency from the left side of the plate, which has so far been the 20-year-old switch-hitter's major blemish.
If Wednesday's game against the Giants was any indication, Cowart is making major progress.
Cowart, who filled in at third base after Bill Hall left early with a tight right quad, went 2-for-4 and hit the ball hard in his three plate appearances as a left-handed hitter.
In the sixth, he singled up the middle off Chad Gaudin. In the seventh, off Santiago Casilla, he hit a shot deep in the left-center-field gap that Juan Perez tracked down for a highlight-reel catch. And in the ninth, against closer Sergio Romo, Cowart hit an RBI double that helped lead to a two-run, game-tying frame.
Cowart has quieted his approach from the left side, eliminating his high leg kick while closing his stance, and it seems to be paying off.
"He's just got tremendous upside," manager Mike Scioscia said of Cowart, ranked first in the Angels' system and 67th overall by MLB.com. "He hit some pretty good pitchers today, and that was encouraging. And he's looking great defensively, too."
Cordero's comeback moves to big league camp
TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Chad Cordero was recently pulled off the field in Minor League camp by Angels assistant general manager Scott Servais, he thought it was to simply go over Monday's outing -- his first appearance in a game in nearly two years.
Instead, he got an invitation to Major League camp.
"It threw me back a little bit," Cordero said on the morning of his first day on the main field at the Tempe Diablo Stadium complex. "I was surprised, but at the same time, I was excited, to be able to come up here and go through big league camp and just get used to the whole thing again. I'm looking forward to that. It's a great opportunity for me, and I'm very thankful that it's happened."
Cordero -- shockingly only 30 years old -- made a name for himself as a closer for the Nationals, making an All-Star team, posting a 2.79 ERA and racking up 113 saves from 2005-07. Then shoulder surgery knocked him out for almost two years, then his 11-week-old daughter died in December 2010, then, while mentally checked out, the Blue Jays released him in May 2011, prompting Cordero to spend most of the next couple of years as a retired father and husband.
Now Cordero -- a lifelong Angels fan and a former first-round pick out of Cal State Fullerton -- is motivated to make an improbable comeback.
He's lost about 40 pounds, dropping down to an unrecognizable 188, and was signed by the Angels based off his track record and an appearance at a Fullerton scrimmage in early February, which was recorded by the cell-phone camera of Cordero's agent.
On Wednesday, two days after giving up a homer and three straight flyouts in a one-inning stint against the Mariners in Peoria, Cordero was brought to big league camp so Angels coaches could take a closer look.
His ultimate goal is to be a big league closer again, but he understands that may be a long process.
"I'm going to go out there and throw and see what happens," Cordero said. "I'm going to try to have fun and get back to that same rhythm that I was in before I got hurt, before I stopped playing. Hopefully it all works out, whether it's the beginning of the season or in the middle of the season. My goal is to get back up here this year, hopefully, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get back up here."
• Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo stressed Wednesday that he's pretty much already back at his playing weight, which is about 200 pounds. Scioscia said Tuesday that Callaspo is "not far from his playing weight" after coming into camp 18 to 20 pounds overweight. Callaspo believes that may be a little bit of an overestimate, but admitted to coming in "a little overweight" after taking most of the winter off.
• Scioscia said Hank Conger's throwing is "getting much better," but added that it's "always a work in progress." In the first inning Wednesday, Conger's throw to third base on an attempted steal sailed wide of Bill Hall, allowing a run to score. Consistency with his throwing may be the only thing standing in the way of Conger winning the job as the Angels' backup catcher.
• Hall, trying to make the Angels' Opening Day roster as a utility player, left Wednesday's game against the Giants in the third inning because of a tight right quad. In nine at-bats this spring, Hall has three hits -- all doubles -- and four RBIs. Hall initially hurt the quad while running up the first-base line in his first at-bat in the second inning, then aggravated it while charging a slow roller the next half-inning. "Nothing serious," he said. "Hopefully only a couple days."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.